Buoyant bananas save lives of ferry disaster victims

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The Independent Online

You might not think of the humble banana as a viable alternative to a life-jacket, but for one teenager a bunch ensured he was one of the lucky few to survive a ferry disaster in Indonesia.

Rudi Alvian, who was a passenger on the Teratai Prima, which capsized during a cyclone on Sunday, said he would have drowned if he had not found the bunch. "I was below deck," said the 17-year-old. "A bunch of bananas belonging to other passengers helped me float until I found a lifeboat."

A fellow passenger, Muhammad Yusuf, has spoken about how he was also saved by the fruit. Mr Yusuf, 38, used bunches of bananas as a makeshift raft, and ate them to stave off hunger. He floated for 27 hours before being found by fishermen. He told AFP news agency: "I jumped into the sea before the ship turned upside down... I managed to survive by telling myself that I have to stay alive for my two children and my wife. I'm very grateful God has given me the chance to live."

Rescue teams spent yesterday searching in vain for any further survivors and authorities have played down the chance of finding any more passengers alive. Currently at least 34 of the more than 250 on board have been rescued, and one body recovered.

The 700-tonne vessel was travelling overnight to Samarinda in East Kalimantan. It capsized around 30 miles off western Sulawesi. Indonesian authorities said an investigation has already started into why the captain of the ferry had apparently ignored weather warnings.